True and lasting financial freedom cannot be experienced in Christians’ finances unless they understand God’s perspective on giving and sharing. God’s perspective on how to obtain lasting financial freedom is best characterized by the following principles.
1. Acknowledge God’s ownership over everything. God owns it all and we are His stewards in charge of managing His property.
2. Surrender the first part, the first fruits, to God.
3. God supplies surplus funds so that the surplus can be used to help meet the needs of others.
God has directed Christians to use their surplus funds to satisfy the needs of others, not necessarily the wants or desires.
Before those surplus funds are delegated and distributed, there are some important questions all Christians should ask regarding how those surplus funds should be shared. With whom does God direct us to share? Who is deserving and why? Should we share only with Christians, or do we have an admonition from God to help non-Christians as well? What about our families? Should all surplus funds go to the church and should the church leadership distribute the funds to whomever they feel needs the funds?
The Word of God seems to be very clear with regard to whom Christians should help with their surplus funds: family, ministering brethren, the Christian community, and the non-Christian community.
God requires that we provide for our families. “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). This provision for the family includes husband, wife, children, mother, father, siblings, and grandparents—right on down the line. “If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed” (1 Timothy 5:16). Paul’s admonition tells us to support the members of our own family. Thus, they will not be a burden on the church (or the government).
Unfortunately, most Christians have placed into the hands of the government the responsibility that was rightfully given to us by God: adequately providing for the needs of the family.
In our present American society, although some pastors and evangelists make extravagant salaries or raise huge sums of money to support an excessive lifestyle, ministering brethren for the most part are generally forced to live on far less than those in the secular world. Why shouldn’t pastors’, evangelists’, and missionaries’ incomes be comparable to those in the business world? Do we as Christians believe that God’s worker is not worthy to receive an adequate salary? “It is written in the Law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.’ God is not concerned about oxen, is He?” (1 Corinthians 9:9).
Based on the Word of God:
1. The requirement of every Christian is to supply the needs of those ministering for the Lord.
2. We are to send them out in a way worthy of God. As such, pastors should be paid as much as the average member of their congregations. If pastors feel that they are being overpaid, it is their responsibility to distribute the surplus. “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).
3. The church is admonished by God not to borrow money from non-Christian sources (3 John 6-7). The body of Christ is responsible for providing the funds that churches need to operate and to pay their staffs. “They have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles” (3 John 6-7).
Christians are to provide care for the Christian community. “Honor widows who are widows indeed” (1 Timothy 5:3). The directive Paul gave for “widows indeed” concerns those who have no family to support them. Therefore the burden of support is placed on the church, and the church is to supply their needs.
How many congregations in America have, as a budgeted item, money to supply the needs of Christians in their churches who cannot provide for themselves (either permanently or temporarily), especially widows (or the elderly) who have no family or have no family who can or will provide for them? The Word of God is very plain concerning churches’ responsibility regarding meeting the needs of those within their body who qualify for such help. In fact, Jesus implied that this type of help from churches should take precedence over other obligations that He would likely consider to be of secondary importance: building programs, buying new equipment, buying a new bus, purchasing television air time, and so on.
If churches are truly fulfilling their scripturally mandated responsibilities, Christians should have no problem with giving their surplus funds to the church so that the leadership can administer those funds. However, if churches are ignoring their responsibilities, Christians may want to reconsider where they place their surplus funds. This does not include the tithe. Christians should pay their tithe to their local church or wherever they receive their teaching and spiritual nourishment, but with their surplus funds they can be more selective if the local church is not fulfilling its biblical obligation.
We are to be Christ-like examples to non-Christians through our material resources, demonstrating that Christ, not money, rules our lives. As such, we are also directed to share our surplus funds with the non-Christian community. When the Bible talks specifically about the believer, the elect, or the body of Christ, it is referring to Christians and the Christian community. Other Scriptures that deal with sharing or helping but do not refer directly to the above are intended to include the non-Christian community.
Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you (Matthew 5:42).
In truth there are perhaps 10 times as many references pertaining to sharing and helping non-believers and the community at large as there are that pertain to helping Christians only. “Whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).
Christians who are seeking financial freedom must be willing to use surplus funds that God has provided to help provide for the needs of others. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). In so doing, not only can true financial freedom be attained but God’s mandate for every Christian will be fulfilled.
Originally posted 9/6/13
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